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Campaign for school starting age flexibility in Northern Ireland

26 May 2013 9,019 views No Comment

NI school starting age

The parents’ campaign group, ParentsOutloud, and the ATL teaching union are heading up a campaign in Northern Ireland for some flexibility on the school starting age. The campaign is also backed by a number of charities and academics. Northern Ireland has the lowest compulsory school starting age in Europe – children are compelled to start school as young as four years and two months. We believe that’s just too young for some children!

What we want

  • The right for children in the following categories to have a one-year deferral of their primary school place, where this is in the best interests of the child:
  • Children born in May, June, or July 1st
  • Children born prematurely
  • Young-for-year children born as part of a multiple birth
  • Children with non – statemented additional needs
  • Adopted and looked after children

Why do we want this?

  • Children gain no academic advantage from starting school at four years
  • Children who are young within their academic year are at greater risk of suffering both educational and psychological disadvantage

Case studies
In Northern Ireland, some parents have managed to defer their child’s entry, but it’s not proved easy as there is no ‘official’ way of doing this at the moment.

Omagh mum Roisin Gilheany kept back her son, Leon, who has a June birthday. She says:

"Leon struggled with his initial year in a playgroup and we knew he wasn't ready for school. Luckily, the playgroup agreed to keep him on for an extra year and we found a school willing to take him into P1 a year late. He really blossomed with that extra time in pre-school. I'm just so glad we kept him back."

Another Omagh mum Ciara Fox deferred entry for her twin daughters, Ciara and Eimear, who have a June birthday. She says:

"I just couldn’t face sending my girls at just turned four years old – they were nowhere near ready. Luckily, I found a supportive school willing to take then into P1 a year late – and I’ve never regretted my decision."

Belfast mum Liz Fawcett kept back her son, Conor, who has a May birthday. Liz says:

"Conor just wasn’t ready for school. He got easily stressed if he was made to do anything he wasn’t capable of, and still needed daytime naps."

"I kept him in a private nursery for an additional year and then found an undersubscribed school willing to take him in P1. But other schools were only prepared to admit him into P2 which would have been a disaster."

Join us!

If you’d like to support or contact the NI campaign, please use the ParentsOutLoud
Contact Us form.

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